I love to read. Ever since I was a young boy, learning to read in the arms of my parents, I have enjoyed the written word. I’m amazed at how the crafted phrase can capture my imagination and open my mind to worlds and ideas I’ve never explored or considered.
I read for pleasure, entertainment and learning. Recently I read the Ernest Hemingway’s classic The Old Man and the Sea, and while it’s short, it took me as long to read the book as it took the old man to bring in his fish!
In the year after I completed my MBA and began business coaching, I read everything I could get my hands on related to business improvement. I estimated that I read more books in the six months after completing the course than I had during the two years it took me to obtain my master’s degree.
I even wrote my book Profit Yourself Healthy because I saw a need among small business owners who were struggling with their businesses.
In the last year, I’ve read books on changes in retailing, management, leadership, goal setting, sales and accountability, and competing in the construction industry, as well as a few John Grisham novels.
Occasionally I come across a book that’s exceptional and I want to share. A few months ago, I read Jim Collins’s Good to Great for the first time and it made such an impression, I had to write my weekly column on it.
This week, I found something that might even be better: Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism should be a summer read for every business leader.
It’s not exactly a new book – it was written in 2014 – but the ideas are timeless and have the potential to change your life.
Most business leaders I know are often overwhelmed with opportunities, ideas and responsibilities. There are meetings, phone calls and an endless stream of emails, texts and interruptions that cause us to be ineffective. We go home with business on our brain and become irritated with our family because they’re vying for our attention. Many times, we finish our day feeling discouraged, unproductive and disheartened!
This is where Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less comes in. Why are we trying to do so much? Why do we say “Yes” to so many requests, opportunities and wishes of others that might be meaningful to them but are distractions from our true purposes and goals?
As McKeown states, the “nonessentialist” is always trying to please others. To them, everything is important, they’re always reacting to what’s pressing, they take on too much and achieve too little. The nonessentialist often feels out of control and overwhelmed.
The “essentialist,” on the other hand, focuses on the things that really matter and says “No” to most opportunities, except those that fit their specific criteria. They make important choices that allow them to do good work. They feel present and in control, and they get things done.
One might read those two descriptions and think that an essentialist would be self-serving while a nonessentialist is more focused on trying to help others. Yet McKeown describes Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks as essentialists because they had clarity about they had to do and didn’t get sidetracked while fulfilling their goals.
How much more could you achieve in your business, with your family and elsewhere in your life if you were focused on doing fewer things that distracted you from what’s important?
Here are some examples of how this book has made a difference in my past week:
- It helped me realize what’s important in my life and to become more focused on making a difference.
- I developed and wrote down some criteria for making big decisions that will serve me in the future.
- I realized that there was a way to deal with my challenging teenage children in a fashion that would get more results in the long run and reduce conflict in my family.
- It allowed me to determine if two coaching opportunities referred to me last week are going to be good fits.
- It helped me spend the time to get this article written, avoid some distractions and prioritize a busy day while completing the important things without becoming overwhelmed.
I might have come to the same conclusions without reading the book. But Essentialism gave me more clarity to fulfil my life’s purpose one little decision at a time.
If you’re looking to read one great business book this summer that will make a real difference, I encourage you to pick up Essentialism.
And please tell me what business book has changed your life. I’d love to hear about it.
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email firstname.lastname@example.org